Artur Mkrtchyan at Stepanakert airport in 1992. Photo via ArtsakhPress.

Review by Emil Sanamyan

The upcoming general election in Artsakh, scheduled for March 31, will be unprecedented in a number of respects, most obviously in that for the first time presidential and parliamentary elections are held simultaneously. They are also unprecedented when it comes to the level of competitiveness, with a dozen or more campaigns vying both for the presidency and seats in the 33-person National Assembly. None of the campaigns can be called a favorite to win a majority of votes, so a second round in presidential voting and some kind of a coalition in parliament are the most likely outcomes.

In Artsakh’s political history there is only one precedent of an election where an outcome was similarly unpredictable: the first parliamentary election held in two rounds in December 1991 and January 1992. (Office of the president was not established in NKR until years later.)

The election was called four months after first Azerbaijan on August 30, then Nagorno Karabakh on September 2 and Armenia on September 21 declared their independence and just days after the Soviet dissolution on December 8.

The election was taking place in a deteriorating security situation. Surrounded on all sides by Azerbaijani-controlled territory, the newly-declared Nagorno Karabakh Republic was already engaged in fighting with Azerbaijan. Between September and December 1991 Nagorno Karabakh Self-Defense Forces managed to free a number of villages in Shaumyan and Hadrut districts that were captured by the Soviet army and Azerbaijani police during Operation Ring earlier that year. From mid-December Soviet security forces that helped keep Armenians and Azerbaijanis disengaged in and around Stepanakert were pulled out, resulting in escalation of fighting. Artsakh’s towns and villages were shelled during the voting.

The first round of voting was held on December 28 and second on January 4. NKR was organized into 81 electoral districts, of these six were majority Azerbaijani districts held by Azerbaijani forces, where voting did not take place. Of the remaining 75 seats, 25 were apportioned to Stepanakert and others to the districts: 7 – Askeran, 7 – Hadrut, 16 – Mardakert, 9 – Martuni, 4 – Shushi and 7 – Shaumyan.

The Executive Committee led by Leonard Petrosyan, Oleg Yesayan, Serzh Sargsyan and Robert Kocharyan, which was in de-facto control of NKR’s administration at the end of 1991 discovered that as a result of the vote, supporters of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaks) won a majority in the newly formed parliament. In several rounds of voting, the local ARF leader Artur Mkrtchyan beat Kocharyan for the post of the president of the parliament. Reflecting disagreements between the two camps, Kocharyan refused to be elected Mkrtchyan’s deputy. Still, while Dashnaks were in charge of parliamentary leadership and effectively Artsakh’s ruling party, they shared power with the Executive Committee and Sargsyan remained the head of Self-Defense Forces.

What made the situation peculiar is that Dashnaks were in opposition to Armenia’s President Levon Ter-Petrosyan, who in turn refused to congratulate Mkrtchyan on his election and, when he arrived in Yerevan soon after, even refused to meet with him. The principal disagreement was on policy: since his election as Armenia’s leader in 1990, Ter-Petrosyan agreed to rescind the Armenia-Artsakh union declaration of 1989 and negotiate for an internationally guaranteed Karabakh autonomy within Azerbaijan; ARF opposed this.

Just three months after his election, Mkrthyan died in a firearms accident and was succeeded by fellow ARF member Georgi Petrosyan. Following military setbacks and the loss of Shaumyan and most of Mardakert districts, Petrosyan agreed to delegate war-time powers to the newly-established State Defense Committee, appointing Kocharyan its head and NKR’s de-facto leader in August 1992.

Below is a list of members of NKR Parliament (1991-95):

Number of Electoral District Full name of the elected Deputy
District  N 1, Stepanakert Murad A. Petrosyan
District  N 2, Stepanakert Arkady A. Ghoukasyan
District  N 3, Stepanakert Radik T. Hayriyan
District  N 4, Stepanakert Felix M. Gabrielyan
District  N 5, Stepanakert Garik B. Petrosyan
District  N 6, Stepanakert Roles G. Aghajanyan
District  N 7, Stepanakert Vladik A. Hakobyan
District  N 8, Stepanakert Boris S. Arushanyan
District  N 9, Stepanakert Hrant Kh. Khachatryan
District  N 10, Stepanakert Slava R.Aghajanyan
District  N 11, Stepanakert Robert S. Kocharyan
District  N 12, Stepanakert Valery L. Balayan
District  N 13, Stepanakert Boris G. Babayan
Rudik L. Hyusnunts Elected after the death of the Deputy
District  N 14, Stepanakert Ishkhan G. Avetisyan
District  N 15, Stepanakert Valery S. Ghazaryan
District  N 16, Stepanakert Levon H. Melik-Shahnazaryan
District  N 17, Stepanakert Karen Z. Baburyan
District  N 18, Stepanakert Arkady M. Manucharov
District  N 19, Stepanakert Georgy M. Petrosyan
District  N 20, Stepanakert Serge A. Sargsyan
District  N 21, Stepanakert Zhirayr T. Poghosyan
District  N 22, Stepanakert Serge Z. Arushanyan
District  N 23, Stepanakert Vyacheslav R. Aghabalyan
District  N 24, Stepanakert Ashot G. Sargsyan
District  N 25, Stepanakert Samvel A. Babayan
District  N 26, Shosh Valery A. Alexanyan
District  N 27, Chanakhchi Hrant R. Safaryan
District  N 28, Balluja Kamo I. Barseghyan
District  N 29, Dashbulagh Maxim M. Mirzoyan
District  N 30, Noragyugh Arshavir A. Glastyan
District  N 31, Khanabad Gurgen A. Mangasaryan
Suren G. Tsaturyan
Vitaly M. Balasanyan Elected after the death of the Deputy
District  N 32, Askeran Alyosha G. Gabrielyan
District  N 33, Khojalu No elections held (Azerbaijani populated electoral district)
District  N 34, Hadrut Emil S. Abrahamyan
District  N 35, Mets Taghlar Vachagan G. Hayriyan
District  N 36, Togh Vigen S. Grigoryan
Susanna L. Balayan Elected after the death of the Deputy
District  N 37, Edillu Arthur A. Mkrtchyan
Manvel S. Grigoryan Elected after the death of the Deputy
District  N 38, Taghaser Igor M. Muradyan
District  N 39, Banadzor Grisha A. Hayrapetyan
District  N 40, Hadrut Arthur A. Aghabekyan
District  N 41, Martakert Slava M. Movsesyan
District  N 42, Martakert Nerses M. Ohanjanyan
District  N 43, Martakert Vagif L. Galstyan
District  N 44, Karmiravan Zhora Sh. Poghosyan
District  N 45, Leninavan Roma A. Karapetyan
District  N 46, Leninavan Edik H. Vanyan
District  N 47, Aygestan Gurgen V. Antonyan
District  N 48, Talish Ararat D. Sargsyan
District  N 49, Maghavuz Grisha M. Badalyan
District  N 50, Horatagh Jems Sh. Ghahramanyan
District  N51, Janyatagh Vahan M. Gabrielyan
District  52 No elections held (Azerbaijani populated electoral district)
District  N 53, Arajadzor Vasily A. Atajanyan
District  N 54, Vank Boris Kh. Hakobyan  
Norayr E. Danielyan Elected after the death of the Deputy
Gurgen S. Nersisyan Elected after the death of the Deputy
District  N 55, Drmbon Raphael A. Sayiyan
District  N 56, Getavan Roma J. Aghabekyan
District  N 57, Haterq Barmen S. Grigoryan
Slavik S. Abrahamyan Elected after the death of the Deputy
District  N 58, Martuni Zori H. Balayan
District  N 59, Martuni Grigory A. Gasparyan
District  60 No elections held (Azerbaijani populated electoral district)
District  N 61, Berdashen Davit R. Ishkhanyan
District  N 62, Kaghartsi Grigory Y. Nassibyan
District  N 63, Gishi Razmik G. Balayan
District  N 64, Chartar Leonard G. Petrosyan
District  N 65, Chartar Mikael A. Hovhannisyan
District  N 66, Sos Hamlet V. Grigoryan
District  N 67, Karmir Shuka Oleg Y. Yesayan
District  N 68, Shushi Vachagan A. Ishkhanyan
District  N 69, Shushi Bako S. Sahakyan
District  N 70, Berdadzor Vladimir S. Kasyan
District  71 No elections held (Azerbaijani populated electoral district)
District  72 No elections held (Azerbaijani populated electoral district)
District  73 No elections held (Azerbaijani populated electoral district)
District  N 74, Qarin Tak Vagharshak B. Arushanyan
Grisha H. Hwvhannisyan Elected after the death of the Deputy
District  N 75, Shahumyan Hakob I. Khdryan
District  N 76, Shahumyan Roma B. Arustamyan
District  N 77, Verin Shen Arkady H. Jlavyan
District  N 78, Verin Shen Sergey R. Chalyan
District  N 79, Karachinar Samson Sh. Voskanyan
District  N 80, Karachinar Shahen V. Hovsepyan
District  N 81, Gyulistan Shahen Z. Meghryan

The table is from NKR’s Central Election Committee web site